The United States is on a steady skid downward and is no longer on the list of top ten countries for economic freedom, according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.

After seven years of decline in the rating, the US has gone down to 12th place in the index which was published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

The US with a “substantial expansion in the size and scope of government,” is one spot behind Estonia in the index and only one place ahead of Bahrain which has earned No. 13.

The report says the US slid down two spots from last year’s index and is the only country to show such a prolonged decline.

“Now considered only a ‘mostly free’ economy, the US has earned the dubious distinction of having recorded one of the longest sustained declines in economic freedom, second only to Argentina, of any country in the [20-year] history of the Index,” said the report’s editors from the Heritage Foundation.

“The US is the only country to have recorded a loss of economic freedom each of the past seven years.”

The United States’ decline is “primarily due to deteriorations in property rights, fiscal freedom and business freedom,” the report stated.

The Index of Economic Freedom judges countries around the world in terms of their commitment to the rule of law, principles of limited government, regulatory efficiency, freedom from corruption and open markets.

The 2014 index shows global economic freedom continues to rise, reaching a record average score of 60.3.

The US scored 75.5 in the index. Hong Kong topped the list with a score of 90.1, followed by Singapore, Australia, Switzerland and New Zealand”

World : Suspected Boko Haram militants kill dozens in Nigeria attack

At least 38 people have been killed in weekend attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants in Nigeria’s northeastern state of Borno, local officials said on Saturday.

At least 38 people have been killed in weekend attacks in Nigeria by suspected Boko Haram insurgents, and another 34 are missing, local officials said Saturday.

Gunmen killed 14 nomadic herders in an attack on a village in the north eastern state of Borno, local government representative Alhaji Garba Ali told reporters.

At least 24 members of a vigilante group were killed in a separate attack in a forest in the same state, said another local official who asked not to be named.

The attackers were wearing military uniforms and the vigilantes followed them into the forest, believing them to be government soldiers, the official said.

“They took them to the middle of the forest before descending on them,” he said. “About 24 bodies have been discovered, while 34 other persons are still missing.”

The military has encouraged the formation of vigilante groups to help it track down Boko Haram members as it pursues an offensive in the northeast aiming to end the Islamist extremists’ four-year insurgency.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeast in May and the military immediately launched a major offensive in the region aiming to end Boko Haram’s insurgency.

Boko Haram’s insurgency has left more than 3,600 dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces, who have been accused of major abuses.

The group has claimed to be fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Africa’s most populous nation and largest oil producer, though it is believed to have a number of factions with varying aims.

An Indian juvenile court on Saturday found one person guilty of rape and murder in the gang-rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi last December. The attack sparked street protests over India’s failure to protect women from sexual violence.

An Indian juvenile court convicted a teenager of rape and murder Saturday in the first conviction stemming from the December gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus.
The defendant, who was 17 at the time of the attack, has been sentenced to three years in a reform home, the maximum sentence he could have faced, his lawyer Rajesh Tewari said. Indian law forbids the publication of his name, though he has since turned 18.
The attack, which left the victim with such extensive internal injuries that she died two weeks later, sparked protests across the country and led to reforms of India’s antiquated sexual violence laws. The government, facing immense public pressure, had promised swift justice in the case.
The convicted defendant was one of six people accused of tricking a 23-year-old woman and her male companion into boarding an off-duty bus Dec. 16 after they had seen an afternoon showing of ‘’Life of Pi” at a upscale shopping mall.
Police say the men raped the woman and used a metal bar to inflict massive internal injuries to her. They also beat her male companion. The victims were dumped naked on the roadside, and the woman died from her injuries in a Singapore hospital.
Four of the other defendants are being tried in a special fast-track court in New Delhi and face the death penalty. The sixth accused was found dead in his jail cell in March. The court is expected to hand down the rest of the verdicts next month.The convicted defendant was tried as a minor on charges including murder and rape. The time he spent in a juvenile home since he was arrested in December will count as part of his three-year sentence, Tewari said.
The attack set off furious protests across India about the treatment of women in the country and led to an overhaul of sexual assault laws.
The victim’s family called for the teenager to be tried as an adult, accusing him of being the most violent of the attackers.
“He should be hanged irrespective of whether he is a juvenile or not. He should be punished for what he did to my daughter,” Asha Devi, the mother of the victim, said soon after the verdict was announced.
A government panel set to suggest reforms to sexual assault laws rejected calls to lower the age at which people can be tried as adults from 18 to 16.
On July 17, India’s top court also refused to reduce the age of a juvenile from 18 to 16 years. However, it later agreed to hear a new petition seeking to take the “mental and intellectual maturity” of the defendant into account and not just age.

The Iranian military’s top brass blames Washington for its siding with al-Qaeda terrorists in Syria, warning of consequences in the event of a possible US strike on the Arab country.
The US, which has invaded countries in the region under the big lie of battling al-Qaeda following the September 11 [2001 attacks ], is now fighting in favor of al-Qaeda in Syria,” Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi stated on Friday.

Firouzabadi said the US war threats against Syria are aimed to compensate for the recurrent losses of al-Qaeda-linked Takfiri militants, who have been receiving military training from US, in their struggle against the Syrian Army, and to weaken Syria by forming anti-Damascus alliances.
“American people will realize that the White House’s warmongering pretext called al-Qaeda was a big lie the US rulers told the American nation,” he stressed.

The Iranian general also noted that the US war rhetoric can bring about massive problems for other powers.
Firouzabadi said a US military intervention in Syria would cost Russia, for instance, its backyard of Caucasus, pushing Kremlin’s defense borders around Moscow.
Regional countries backing this cruel war will suffer serious losses,” he said.
He went on to say that Israel, which has been spearheading efforts to drag Washington into a war against the Syrian government, would also be hit by retaliatory attacks if the US launches an offensive on Syria.
The US has stepped up its war rhetoric against Syria after militants and the foreign-backed opposition accused the Syrian Army of having used chemical weapons to target militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21.
The Syrian government has strongly rejected the accusations, but vowed to counter any act of aggression against the country.

In yet another reprisal attack by insurgents, some gunmen Tuesday night slaughtered no fewer than 44 people at Dumba village on the outskirts of Baga town, in Kukawa Local Government Area of Borno State.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the security Challenge in the North yesterday displayed video recording of Shura members of the Boko Haram sect where they called on their field commanders to ceasefire as being proposed by the government, saying that prophet Mohammed sanctions dialogue during Jihad.

Sources told our reporter yesterday that about 50 gunmen stormed Dumba village which is some kilometers away from Baga and slaughtered 44 people. Many people were also said to have been injured during the attack that lasted for hours.

It was gathered that the gunmen also set fire on some houses in the village. Baga is about 157 kilometers away from Maiduguri, the State capital and an epicenter of the insurgency which had witnessed series of attacks through bombings and gunshots.

Our correspondent gathered that rescue workers have been mobilized to the area from Maiduguri with the aim of providing medical services to the surviving victims.

The assailants were said to have removed the two eyes of some of the victims while many others had their bodies decapitated.

A rescue worker told Journalists in Maiduguri that the village came under attack late Tuesday when some unknown gunmen stormed the settlement and killed many people when they were fast asleep.

” As am speaking to you now, Red cross officials and the San Medicine Frontier are attending to the injured victims,” a rescue worker with a federal government agency who does not want to be named said.

According to him, the village has been deserted, as the people are now taking refuge at the Baga central primary school.

A source with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) who confirmed the incident to our reporter, said the agency has mobilized to the area to access the situation with a view to render humanitarian assistance to the injured victims and those who were psychologically trauma-tized in the attack.

According to him, the agency will on Saturday(today) set up camp at the Baga central primary school for the displaced victims.

On the ceasefire call by the leaders of Boko Haram on their field commanders, the video recording, according to the chairman of Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the security Challenge in the North, Barrister Turaki Tanimu, was recorded two weeks ago in the detention facilities in Bauchi where the sect members whom he said, belonged to the highest decision making body of the Boko Haram sect before their arrest by security forces in various locations across the country.

Speaking on the development, Barrister Tanimu who was flanked by some members of the committee, said, the video clip is a recording of some members of the Jama’atul Ahli Sunnat Nida’atul Waljihad, (Boko Haram) , ‘who sat down in Shura, the highest decision-making body and analyzed from purely Islamic perspective, taking into account the clear and unambiguous provisions of the Holy Qura’an and taken also into account the teachings and fundamentally the practices of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAW) on the issue of dialogue and peaceful reconciliation; strengthening submissions again with the works of other Islamic scholars globally who have had cause in their life times to also make research and came out with a lot of literature supporting the cause on dialogue and stating the parameters and conditions under which dialogue can take place.

The chairman said the committee was still making efforts towards meeting another set of senior leaders of the group, and a splinter group – Ansaru – even as he said he could not get confirmation from the military operatives in Borno state to confirm the death of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau.

Barrister Turaki admitted that there is no clear nexus between this Shura committee and the second-in-command with whom government reportedly secured an earlier peace deal, or with Shekau who is yet to be personally reached.

In the Video which was shown to Journalists, five members of the Shura committee of the sect who spoke in Hausa and Arabic enjoined their colleagues ‘on the field’ to embrace the dialogue being proposed by government as both prophet Mohammed and other Islamic scholars are in support of dialogue with infidels.

A 3-year-old boy is in critical condition after being shot in the head in Brooklyn.
The boy was shot at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday inside an apartment in the Ditmas Park neighborhood.
Police say the child is hospitalized in critical but stable condition.
A 22-year-old man is being questioned in the shooting.

A tour bus “connected” to 2 Chainz was pulled over in Oklahoma early this morning in an incident that turned into a clash between police and the passengers on board, TMZ reports. 
Authorities eventually obtained a search warrant to enter the bus, but were without proper paperwork when it was stopped for a broken tail light at around midnight. Insiders say officers saw signs of drug use and wanted to investigate, but the driver and passengers reportedly refused to open the door. 
Cops towed the bus, and everyone inside, to a nearby police facility to wait for a judge to approve the warrant. The six passengers were detained and arrested, while the driver was busted on suspicion of drug use. All could face a misdemeanor charge for interfering with the police search process. 
2 Chainz was not confirmed as one of the arrestees, but he doesn’t have the best luck out on the road. He was robbed at gunpoint after a San Francisco show in June and arrested for weed on his way back from a college performance back in February.
Currently, the G.O.O.D. Music rapper is on the America’s Most Wanted tour with Lil Wayne, and T.I.   

Malaysia tycoon Danny Tan is poised to take control of a little-known Singapore-listed firm, in a deal involving five sites in the bustling Iskandar growth belt worth an estimated RM3 billion (S$1.16 billion).

The company, Albedo, a steel and raw materials trader, has signed a non-binding deal with Temasya Cergas, a private vehicle of Mr Tan, 58, a prominent property developer.

Under the proposed deal, Albedo would buy the five sites in Iskandar’s key Nusajaya zone by issuing new Albedo shares – a move which could result in a “reverse takeover”.

This means Mr Tan could finish up with enough Albedo shares to be the new controlling owner of the company, listed on the Singapore Exchange’s second Catalist board for smaller companies.

Albedo announced the possible reverse takeover in an SGX statement on Tuesday. It expects to finalise the deal by Friday of next week and then needs to secure regulatory and shareholder approvals.

The announcement had no details on the purchase price, but one analyst conservatively estimates the land’s value to be more than RM3 billion.

The parcels, ranging from 12ha to 113ha, are in Iskandar’s flagship development Nusajaya. They are earmarked for an integrated business park and mixed commercial and residential developments.

Mr Tan is the 23rd richest person in Malaysia, according to Forbes. His flagship group is Tropicana Corp, which until May this year was called Dijaya Corp and is listed on Malaysia’s bourse.

He is the younger brother of Mr Vincent Tan, the country’s 10th richest man, who controls flagship conglomerate Berjaya Group.

The Tan brothers appear to be making inroads into Singapore. Mr Vincent Tan’s prized asset, lottery operator Sports Toto Malaysia, is expected to be listed as a business trust on the SGX later this year.They are not the only ones looking here. Other prominent Malaysians have picked up key stakes in listed firms here lately, in bids to diversify their exposure from their home Malaysia base.

They include former banker and stockbroker Tong Kooi Ong who emerged as a major shareholder of UPP Holdings, and former politician Mohd Zaid Ibrahim who in February this year emerged as a substantial shareholder in Ipco International.

There is also rising visibility of the “Iskandar play” on the bourse here. The appeal of Iskandar, an economic zone three times the size of Singapore, is largely premised on its proximity to the Republic.

That is set to grow stronger once a high-speed rail line linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is built. Abundant land and the healthy exchange rate also add to the value proposition.

Albedo shares, which resumed trading on Tuesday after a halt on Monday, did not, however, immediately reflect the excitement associated with Iskandar. The counter dipped 0.1 cent or 4 per cent to 2.3 cents after opening at a high of 2.6 cents.

Albedo, led by chief executive Tai Kok Chuan, who owns a 7 per cent stake, has not had a good run in recent years. Stiff competition and weak demand in the group’s core business have eroded profit margins, the firm said in the statement.

The planned acquisition of the Iskandar land, it hopes, will provide an opportunity to venture into new business areas of potential growth.

In April this year, the firm’s auditor flagged concerns about its ability to recover assets from a subsidiary in Thailand, which is also facing lawsuits from minority shareholders.

In 2008, it attempted to switch from steel trading to health care but the deal, involving a reverse takeover, flopped.

Indian army soldiers display seized arms and ammunition at the army headquarters in Srinagar, India, August 16, 2013.

Pakistan has summoned India’s top diplomat to protest the killing of two of its soldiers on Thursday in what Islamabad condemned as “continued unprovoked” Indian fire along the disputed Kashmir border. Military officials say that such Indian attacks within the past 24 hours have left at least three Pakistani soldiers dead and wounded several others.

Tensions have been running high between the nuclear-armed rivals since early August, when India accused Pakistani troops of ambushing and killing five Indian soldiers in a remote Kashmir district.

Islamabad denies the charges and has since accused New Delhi of repeated violations of a mutually agreed to cease-fire in the disputed Himalayan territory.

Pakistani army officials allege the latest Indian “unprovoked” aggression took place Thursday evening in the “Hotspring” sector of Kashmir, killing at least one Pakistani soldier and wounding two others.

The incident came just hours after Pakistan announced the death of one of its soldiers in a similar Indian attack along the military line of control dividing Kashmir.

A Foreign Ministry statement says that the Indian high commissioner was summoned to protest the killings of Pakistani soldiers and to convey Islamabad’s “serious concerns over the continued and unwarranted cease-fire violations” by the Indian army.

It added that Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani also urged India to “desist from such acts,” warning they have the potential to further escalate the tension.

Earlier on Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry, told a weekly news briefing that Islamabad is demonstrating restraint in the wake of unprovoked Indian fire and the policy “should not be construed as a weakness.”

He said India needs to reduce the Kashmir tension and engage in a dialogue with Pakistan to settle differences. The spokesman again rejected allegations that Pakistani troops were responsible for the killings of Indian troops.

“On our side we investigated and we found that none of Pakistani side was involved in it and we conveyed that to the Indian side,” he said. “It is for the Indian government to investigate as to what happened and how it happened.

Pakistan, which in itself has been suffering from terrorism, cannot be held responsible for any act of terrorism that may have happened on the other side of the Line of Control,” said Chaudhry.

New Delhi has long accused the Pakistani military of training and sending Islamist militants into the Indian-ruled portion of Kashmir to fuel a separatist insurgency there. Military leaders in India say that this year, there has been a spike in attempts by militants to infiltrate into Kashmir.

On Monday, Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony warned in a statement that his country was running out of patience with what he called Pakistan army-backed transgressions across the disputed Kashmir border. He demanded Pakistan act against its troops involved in the killing of Indian soldiers in the latest incident as well as the killing of two troops back in January.

The alleged Indian hostilities also dominated affairs in the morning session of the National Assembly, the lower house of the Pakistani parliament, where lawmakers unanimously adopted an anti-India resolution moved by the federal minister for defense production, Rana Tanveer Hussain.

“This house condemns this act of aggression and also expresses its serious concern over the continued violations of the cease-fire across the LoC [Line of Control in Kashmir] by the India army and demands for a constructive, sustained and result-oriented process of engagement [with India]. The people of Pakistan fully stand behind their civil and military leadership to defend the territory of Pakistan,” said Hussain.

The clashes in Kashmir, many believe, have undermined a push by Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, to normalize relations with India. In his first address to the nation earlier this week, Sharif emphasized that instead of fighting one another, Pakistan and India should jointly wage a war against poverty, illiteracy and backwardness plaguing their region.

Just days before the latest hostilities broke out in Kashmir, the two countries were about to resume their stalled wide-ranging peace dialogue to settle bilateral disputes that have long strained ties between India and Pakistan.

Analysts are worried the tensions could derail efforts on both sides to arrange a meeting between Prime Minister Sharif and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in New York next month on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

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